Over at the the City Room blog, a social worker muses about race and class after an incident on the train. A young woman, about 18 or so, is hitting her 4-year-old repeatedly. Before long, her friend joins in. The writer stepped in and yelled at her to stop. As you might imagine, things devolved pretty quickly from there.
“Stop hitting that child!”
Who said that? Stepping toward her, I took a dive off a sky-high cliff — and there was no way back.
“Who are you to tell me not to hit my kid? She’s my kid!”
“Don’t hit that child again or I will call the police!”
“I will hit my child if I want. I know how to hit my child. Go ahead and call the police!”
She stopped hitting the child because she was now directing her anger at me. The girl stopped crying. She watched and listened. I moved back to my side of the subway car.
A woman sitting nearest to the young mother started a quieter conversation with her. I could not hear the entire thing, but it was clear that this woman, in her 50s, was counseling her on how to handle an unruly child without hitting.
“You don’t know me,” the younger woman said to the older one. “You don’t know my child.”
The car doors opened at the next stop. The entire car seemed to be watching the young mother, the older woman and me. Two young guys patted me on the back as they exited and said, “Good work, man.”
I exited the car. The mother maintained eye contact with me as the doors closed — with fury and threat in her gaze.
I had publicly shamed her and that was the point. Would she think twice before striking the child again? Or would she be even angrier?
Got that? Okay, here’s where the touchy situation gets touchier.
Here I was, a 54-year-old white Jewish guy — and a social worker no less — confronting a young African-American kid with a kid, someone who was in way over her head. Was there some kind of cultural misunderstanding on my part?
He laments that he wished he’d received more support from of the other black passengers, for reasons that he doesn’t explain but I’ll assume have something to do with the appearance of paternalism. His friend, who he describes as Arab-Canadian, asks:
“Why would you want the black people to jump in and give you support?” he asked. “Are the black people her people and the white people yours? Did her people have to show their support as a form of saying she is our people but we don’t agree with what she did?”
What say you?